Ryle lies back down. “Wow,” he says, shaking his head. “You’re kind of my hero. You just roasted a dead guy.”
“Yeah, well. Naked truth hurts.”
I laugh. “Your turn.”
“I can’t top that,” he says.
“I’m sure you can come close.”
“I’m not sure I can.”
I roll my eyes. “Yes you can. Don’t make me feel like the worst person out of the two of us. Tell me the most recent thought you’ve had that most people wouldn’t say out loud.”
He pulls his hands up behind his head and looks me straight in the eye. “I want to fuck you.”
My mouth falls open. Then I clamp it shut again.
I think I might be speechless.
He shoots me a look of innocence. “You asked for the most recent thought, so I gave it to you. You’re beautiful. I’m a guy. If you were into one-night stands, I would take you downstairs to my bedroom and I would fuck you.”
I can’t even look at him. His statement makes me feel a multitude of things all at once.
“Well, I’m not into one-night stands.”
“I figured as much,” he says. “Your turn.”
He’s so nonchalant; he acts as if he didn’t just stun me into silence.
“I need a minute to regroup after that one,” I say with a laugh. I try to think of something with a little shock value, but I can’t get over the fact that he just said that. Out loud. Maybe because he’s a neurosurgeon and I never pictured someone so educated throwing around the word fuck so casually.
I gather myself . . . somewhat . . . and then say, “Okay. Since we’re on the subject . . . the first guy I ever had sex with was homeless.”
He perks up and faces me. “Oh, I’m gonna need more of this story.”
I stretch my arm out and rest my head on it. “I grew up in Maine. We lived in a fairly decent neighborhood, but the street behind our house wasn’t in the best condition. Our backyard butted up to a condemned house adjacent to two abandoned lots. I became friends with a guy named Atlas who stayed in the condemned house. No one knew he was living there other than me. I used to take him food and clothes and stuff. Until my father found out.”
“What’d he do?”
My jaw tightens. I don’t know why I brought this up when I still force myself not to think about it on a daily basis. “He beat him up.” That’s as naked as I want to get about that subject. “Your turn.”
He regards me silently for a moment, as if he knows there’s more to that story. But then he breaks eye contact. “The thought of marriage repulses me,” he says. “I’m almost thirty years old and I have no desire for a wife. I especially don’t want children. The only thing I want out of life is success. Lots of it. But if I admit that out loud to anyone, it makes me sound arrogant.”
“Professional success? Or social status?”
He says, “Both. Anyone can have children. Anyone can get married. But not everyone can be a neurosurgeon. I get a lot of pride out of that. And I don’t just want to be a great neurosurgeon. I want to be the best in my field.”
“You’re right. It does make you sound arrogant.”
He smiles. “My mother fears I’m wasting my life away because all I do is work.”
“You’re a neurosurgeon and your mother is disappointed in you?” I laugh. “Good lord, that’s insane. Are parents ever really happy with their children? Will they ever be good enough?”
He shakes his head. “My children wouldn’t be. Not many people have the drive I do, so I’d only be setting them up for failure. That’s why I’ll never have any.”
“I actually think that’s respectable, Ryle. A lot of people refuse to admit they might be too selfish to have children.”
He shakes his head. “Oh, I’m way too selfish to have children. And I’m definitely way too selfish to be in a relationship.”
“So how do you avoid it? You just don’t date?”
He cuts his eyes to me, and there’s a slight grin affixed to his face. “When I have time, there are girls who satisfy those needs. I don’t lack for anything in that department, if that’s what you’re asking. But love has never appealed to me. It’s always been more of a burden than anything.”
I wish I looked at love like that. It would make my life a hell of a lot easier. “I envy you. I have this idea that there’s a perfect man out there for me. I tend to become jaded easily, because no one ever meets my standards. I feel like I’m on an infinite search for the Holy Grail.”
“You should try my method,” he says.
“One-night stands.” He raises an eyebrow, like it’s an invitation.
I’m glad it’s dark, because my face is on fire. “I could never sleep with someone if I didn’t see it going anywhere.” I say this out loud, but my words lack conviction when I say it to him.
He drags in a long, slow breath, and then rolls onto his back. “Not that kind of girl, huh?” He says this with a trace of disappointment in his voice.
I match his disappointment. I’m not sure I’d even want to turn him down if he made a move, but I might have just thwarted that possibility.
“If you wouldn’t sleep with someone you just met . . .” His eyes meet mine again. “Exactly how far would you go?”